Aim this train for the nearest storytime and choo-choo-choose it anytime.


Interactive tomfoolery reaches new heights (and the occasional depth) when a perpetual crank’s mood meets its match.

Mr. Complain lives up to his name. Clad in a Tyrolean hat and an oversized ascot, the mustachioed, elderly White gent boards a train in the hope of reaching a vacation destination. Alas, at all times he is beset with problems that only he seems to detect. The train compartment he initially sits in is “too happy,” but outside is “too sad.” His animal seatmates are “too bubbly,” “too prickly,” and “too piggly.” The dining car offers some respite, until it starts tilting about—thanks to instructions given specifically to the book’s readers, who are encouraged again and again to wreak extra havoc on the ride. Though Mr. Complain cannot open his mouth without moaning, a relentlessly chipper ostrich conductor meets every last one of the cranky guest’s peeves with reassurance. Surely any adult or child who has ever experienced a flood of nonstop negativity will instantly recognize the Mr. Complains in their own lives. Britt’s thickly inked figures and Beccia’s digital colors bring the train and its chaotic passengers to life; Mr. Complain is particularly amusing, with a neckless, egg-shaped head rising out of a body ending in two tiny feet. It will be hard for child audiences to complain when seeing this story in action. Mr. Complain is the only human in the book.

Aim this train for the nearest storytime and choo-choo-choose it anytime. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-544-82981-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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